Syrian families will arrive in Dunedin later this month, the first to be resettled in the city since it was chosen as a refugee resettlement location last year.

New Zealand Red Cross has been working closely with the Dunedin City Council, community groups and local residents ahead of arrival day on April 22.

Eleven new staff members have joined Red Cross’ resettlement team in Dunedin, and have spent time training in other resettlement locations around New Zealand.

The team encompasses a diverse range of backgrounds, including former refugees, Arabic speakers and Dunedin locals.

Red Cross volunteer co-ordinator Stephanie Smith says she is excited to be part of the team and proud of the generous way the community has responded.

“I wasn’t surprised that there was support for refugee resettlement in Dunedin, but I am overwhelmed at the extent of the support. Every day, people come into the office to drop off donations.”

Red Cross’ storeroom is full of blankets, warm clothing and bathroom items, donated by the community for their new neighbours.

Big household items, such as furniture, are provided by Immigration New Zealand, but Red Cross relies on donations for smaller items, like appliances, bedding and sporting goods, to kit out houses for new Kiwis.

“People have been incredibly generous so far, and these donations will make a big difference. We still need good quality kitchen items like pots and pans, as well as cash donations, to help turn houses into welcoming homes,” Red Cross’ Dunedin manager Sue Price says.

Local residents have also been keen to donate their time, with more than 400 people expressing interest in helping with resettlement. Forty five refugee support volunteers have completed training and will work with families, offering local knowledge and a friendly face from the moment they step off the plane.

Red Cross has also been working with Housing New Zealand and the Ministry of Education ahead of arrival day. Red Cross aims to get children enrolled in schools as quickly as possible, which allows parents to focus on their own resettlement needs, such as English language classes and career development.

People arriving under the refugee quota spend six weeks at the Mangere Refugee Resettlement Centre. They are then supported for 12 months in the community by New Zealand Red Cross, the primary provider of refugee resettlement services in Aotearoa.